Detail of a dress made of silk taffeta, c. 1880

Taffeta (archaically spelled taffety or taffata) is a crisp, smooth, plain woven fabric made from silk, nylon, cuprammonium rayons, acetate, or polyester. The word came into Middle English via Old French and Old Italian, which borrowed the Persian word tāfta (تافته), which means "silk" or "linen cloth".[1] As clothing, it is used in ball gowns, wedding dresses, and corsets, and in interior decoration for curtains or wallcovering. It tends to yield a stiff, starched-like cloth that holds its shape better than many other fabrics and does not sag or drape.[2][3]

Silk taffeta is of two types: yarn-dyed and piece-dyed. Piece-dyed taffeta is often used in linings and is quite soft. Yarn-dyed taffeta is much stiffer and is often used in evening dresses. Shot silk taffeta was one of the most highly-sought forms of Byzantine silk, and may have been the fabric known as purpura.[4]


Modern taffeta was first woven in Italy and France and until the 1950s in Japan. Warp-printed taffeta or chiné, mainly made in France from the 18th century onwards, is sometimes called "pompadour taffeta" after Madame de Pompadour.[5] Today most raw silk taffeta is produced in India and Pakistan. There, even in the modern period, handlooms were widely used, but since the 1990s it has been produced on mechanical looms in the Bangalore area. From the 1970s until the 1990s, the Jiangsu province of China produced fine silk taffetas: these were less flexible than those from Indian mills, however, which continue to dominate production. Other countries in South-East and Western Asia also produce silk taffeta, but these products tend not yet to be equal in quality or competitiveness to those from India.

Historical and current uses

Pink taffeta evening coat designed by Sybil Connolly

Taffeta has seen use for purposes other than clothing fabric, including the following:

See also


  1. ^ "The American Heritage Dictionary entry: taffeta". HarperCollins Publishers. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  2. ^ Shaeffer, Claire (2008). Claire Shaeffer's fabric sewing guide (2nd ed.). Cincinnati, Ohio: Krause Publications. p. 246. ISBN 9781440223426.
  3. ^ Stevenson, Angus, ed. (2010). Oxford dictionary of English (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 1286. ISBN 9780199571123.
  4. ^ Dodwell, C.R.; Anglo-Saxon Art, A New Perspective, pp. 145-150, 1982, Manchester UP, ISBN 0-7190-0926-X (US edn. Cornell, 1985)
  5. ^ Fukai, Akiko (2002). Fashion : the collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute : a history from the 18th to the 20th century. Köln [etc.]: Taschen. p. 56. ISBN 9783822812068.
  6. ^ Gillispie, Charles Coulston (1983). The Montgolfier Brothers and the Invention of Aviation 1783-1784. pp. 15, 16 and 21. ISBN 9780691641157.
  7. ^ PIERPONT H; BLADES B (September 1957). "Heat sealed dacron taffeta blood vessel replacement". Surg Gynecol Obstet. 105 (3): 370–4. PMID 13467673.
  8. ^ "Entry for tabby". Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  9. ^ David Scott Kastan (ed.). William Shakespeare. King Henry IV, Part 1. Arden Shakespeare Third Series. London: Thompson Learning, 2002, 150.